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Figuring out the office acoustics – class A or Class B office pods per ISO 23351-1:2020? Which is better?

  • Posted on: 22 March 2022
  • By: Hushoffice Team

We touched on ISO 23351 in a recent blog post. It’s a new standard for phone booths and other enclosing furniture that denotes the level of speech reduction performed by a product, classing it A+, A, B, C, or D. As Class A and Class B pods offer the best speech privacy, you’ll likely be picking between them. So let’s cover distinctions.

Figuring out the office acoustics – class A or Class B office pods per ISO 23351-1:2020? Which is better?

Table of Contents

Office acoustics – key takeaways:

  • ISO 23351-1:2020 is a new standard measuring speech reduction levels of phone booths, work pods, and other furniture ensembles. Its test calculates a figure called “speech level reduction,” denoted as DS,A (decibels/dB). It’s the first ISO standard specific to booths and other semi-enclosing furniture pieces.

  • ISO 23351-1:2020 classes office pods A+, A, B, C, or D per amount of speech level reduction they provide. Class A+, A, and B office pods guarantee the best speech privacy.

  • What does “speech privacy” really mean? First, conversations held in the pod can’t be overheard by those outside it. Second, pod users are no longer concerned about being listened to. So they can focus fully on the task and enjoy better work. Thus, pods become the best place in the office for sensitive, confidential, private, or touchy discussions as well as focused work. Furthermore, because intelligible speech is now trapped in pods, the open floor is made more peaceful and productive for everyone.

  • How to pick between Class A and Class B pods? Want a more economical price? A lighter weight (easier to relocate)? Opt Class B. If your office background noise level is less than 35dB, Class A may be needed. But note that a Class A pod in a super quiet office space may actually feel too quiet because it may not let a healthy amount of sound in from the office floor.

  • Hushoffice privacy booths are designed to the Class B standard for four reasons. Affordability. Lightweight-ness (for an agile, mobile office). Beneficial acoustics (they let in an adequate level of sound from outside). And safety (for example, fire alarms can be easily heard from inside a Class B booth).

Recap: what’s ISO 23351-1:2020?

Thanks to the new ISO standard, we can accurately measure how effectively our office booths and pods reduce speech levels

– says Robert Korpacki, Product Manager, Hushoffice.

The new ISO 23351-1:2020 standard measures speech reduction levels of phone booths, work pods, and other furniture ensembles. It applies to workstations, work pods, meet pods, one-person phone booths, and partially enclosed chairs and sofa groups.

The ISO 23351 test calculates a figure called “speech level reduction.”

Denoted as DS,A (decibels/dB).

How is the ISO 23351 test conducted?

Speech level is measured with and without the booth or furniture ensemble. The measurements are then compared to calculate the decibel amount of speech level reduction provided by the product.

ISO 23351 classes office pods A+, A, B, C, or D per amount of speech level reduction.

The following chart details the standard’s classification system. As you can see, the office pod or furniture ensemble must reduce at least 25 decibels/dB of sound to guarantee speech privacy in the typical office.

ClassSpeech level reduction (DS,A)Speech privacy guaranteed?
A+> 33 decibels/dBYes
A30-33 decibels/dBYes
B25-30 decibels/dBYes
C20-25 decibels/dBDepends on background noise level
D15-20 decibels/dBDepends on background noise level
unclasified< 15 decibels/dBNo

Let’s take a common scenario…

For reference, 30 decibels is about the power of a whisper.

The important takeaway: Class A+, A, and B office pods guarantee the best speech privacy.

Another example to illustrate this…

As long as your office produces roughly 40 decibels of background noise, Class A+, A, and B will all deliver speech privacy. The good news is, most offices average 40dB-60dB of volume

– adds Robert Korpacki, Product Manager, Hushoffice.

What “speech privacy” really means (it goes both ways)…                                                                            

  • Conversations held in the work pod can’t be overheard by those outside the pod.

  • Pod users are no longer concerned about being listened to. Instead, they can focus fully on the task, phone call, video conference, group meeting, or conversation, and enjoy better work.

  • Pods become the best place in the office for sensitive, confidential, private, or touchy discussions.

  • The open floor is more peaceful and productive because distracting intelligible speech is now trapped in pods.

Intelligible speech is proven to be the most distracting source of noise in the office.

Quiet pods for offices make the open-plan layout more effective.

Mobile office pods like hushHybrid help improve office acoustics and are relocatable by the push of two teammates.
Mobile office pods like hushHybrid help improve office acoustics and are relocatable by the push of two teammates.

So if both guarantee speech privacy, how do you pick between Class A and Class B?

Want a more economical price? A lighter weight (easier to relocate)? Opt Class B.

Class B pods are generally less costly and lighter than most Class A pods, which are often made using pricier, heavier materials by comparison.

Is your office background noise level < 35dB?

This is unlikely, but if it’s the case, Class A pods may be right for you. Because Class A pods give you up to 3 decibels more of speech reduction than Class B pods. And you’ll need these 3 decibels of additional speech reduction to make speech made inside inaudible/unintelligible on a quieter office floor.

What if only certain zones within your office maintain > 35 decibels of sound?

Class B acoustic pods will work perfectly. Simply place yours beside the zones that maintain 35dB of sound. This way, that maximum 35dB of speech that seeps out of your Class B pod will always be masked by the surrounding zone’s minimum noise levels.

Note that a Class A pod in a super quiet office space may feel too quiet.

Humans need a minimum level of sound to thrive. Too quiet is unsettling and impedes work. Thus a Class A pod may not be ideal for super quiet office spaces. Because the pod may simply not be receiving this minimum level of sound from the open floor needed to make users feel comfortable. About 40dB of sound is ideal.

The hushWork.sit&stand small office pod is comfortably quiet. and helps improve office acoustics. Inside, employees enjoy a calm atmosphere and natural focus.
The hushWork.sit&stand small office pod is comfortably quiet and helps improve office acoustics. Inside, employees enjoy a calm atmosphere and natural focus.

Employees may even feel anxious or isolated in a Class A pod if the office space is super quiet.

They may report that it feels strangely quiet in the pod. The thing is, total silence is actually painful. Check out the anechoic chamber for proof. A healthy amount of sound is beneficial. This is partly why we designed our Hushoffice mobile pods and booths to the Class B standard. They block out a target level of sound from the open floor, not all of the sound.

We designed Hushoffice pods to the Class B standard for four important reasons…

  1. Affordability Our Class B pods are more economical than most Class A pods.

  2. Lightweight for an agile, mobile office Our Class B pods are also a lighter weight than most Class A pods, which are often made using costlier, heavier materials by comparison. Lighter pods are better for agile teams. They’re easier to move around the office space, making quick layout changes feasible.

  3. Healthy amount of sound Class B pods let an ideal minimal level of sound through from the office. 40dB, specifically (the scientifically proven ideal level for concentration). This 40dB minimum is critical, making Hush pods feel pleasantly quiet, not alarmingly quiet.

  4. Safety Fire alarms can be easily heard from inside a Class B pod.

Hushoffice Class B pods are carefully, intelligently engineered.

They deliver a target amount of soundproofing that’s most natural for users and most supportive of focus. Because a minimum amount of sound permeates them from the floor, Class B pods feel peaceful, not isolating. They guarantee speech privacy on the vast majority of open-plan layouts. And they are generally lighter and more economical than most Class A pods.

The hushMeet acoustic meeting pod for offices, built to the Class B standard
The hushMeet acoustic meeting pod for offices, built to the Class B standard

Office acoustics – key takeaways:

  • ISO 23351-1:2020 is a new standard measuring speech reduction levels of phone booths, work pods, and other furniture ensembles. Its test calculates a figure called “speech level reduction,” denoted as DS,A (decibels/dB). It’s the first ISO standard specific to booths and other semi-enclosing furniture pieces.

  • ISO 23351-1:2020 classes office pods A+, A, B, C, or D per amount of speech level reduction they provide. Class A+, A, and B office pods guarantee the best speech privacy.

  • What does “speech privacy” really mean? First, conversations held in the pod can’t be overheard by those outside it. Second, pod users are no longer concerned about being listened to. So they can focus fully on the task and enjoy better work. Thus, pods become the best place in the office for sensitive, confidential, private, or touchy discussions as well as focused work. Furthermore, because intelligible speech is now trapped in pods, the open floor is made more peaceful and productive for everyone.

  • How to pick between Class A and Class B pods? Want a more economical price? A lighter weight (easier to relocate)? Opt Class B. If your office background noise level is less than 35dB, Class A may be needed. But note that a Class A pod in a super quiet office space may actually feel too quiet because it may not let a healthy amount of sound in from the office floor.

  • Hushoffice privacy booths are designed to the Class B standard for four reasons. Affordability. Lightweight-ness (for an agile, mobile office). Beneficial acoustics (they let in an adequate level of sound from outside). And safety (for example, fire alarms can be easily heard from inside a Class B booth).

Office pods for improved office acoustics – frequently asked questions

What is the new ISO 23351-1:2020 standard?

ISO 23351-1:2020 is a new standard measuring speech reduction levels of phone booths, work pods, and other furniture ensembles. Its test calculates a figure called “speech level reduction,” denoted as DS,A (decibels/dB). It’s the first ISO standard specific to booths and other semi-enclosing furniture pieces.

How do office booths and pods boost speech privacy?

Conversations held in office booths and pods can’t be overheard by employees outside. So a booth/pod user isn’t worried about being listened to. Instead, they simply focus entirely on the task, performing better work. Because booths and pods trap intelligible speech inside, they make the open office floor quieter and more effective for everyone.

What kind of work pods guarantee speech privacy?

Work pods rated Class A+, A, and B per ISO 23351-1:2020 all guarantee speech privacy.

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